Elon Musk defamation trial in homestretch, jury may get case Friday

Marco Green
December 6, 2019

Lin Wood, representing Vernon Unsworth, the caver who helped rescue children from a flooded cave system in July a year ago, repeatedly called Mr Musk a "liar" in his closing speech to the jury. "It was my opinion at the time, and I stand by that opinion".

Unsworth's lawsuit focuses on three Musk tweets on July 15, 2018, five days after the diver helped complete the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from the cave.

Musk, who testified his stock in Tesla and SpaceX is worth about $20 billion, contends that he was not being literal when he referred to Vernon Unsworth as a "pedo guy".

In his closing argument, Wood called Musk a "billionaire bully" who lied when he claimed "pedo guy" only means "creepy old man" and when he apologized to Unsworth.

"The biggest lie of them all was when he told the world that Vernon Unsworth was a paedophile", he said.

Unsworth sued Musk over the tweet, which the chief executive officer of Tesla Inc. and SpaceX told the jury was "a flippant, off-the-cuff insult".

On Friday morning, there is legal argument before both parties set out their cases and the judge gives his legal direction. Wilson rejected a motion from Musk's lawyers to dismiss the case. Musk apologized on Twitter, and again during the trial, which began Tuesday.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, second from left, arrives at US District Court in Los Angeles on December 4.

But under cross-examination Thursday, Musk's lawyers tried to show that Unsworth wasn't harmed by the comment, displaying for the jury a picture of the caver with then U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May in front of 10 Downing Street - the prime minister's residence.

For most of this year, however, Musk, who has almost 30 million Twitter followers, has largely kept his public comments focused on Tesla's new models and improved profitability and on the technical progress of SpaceX.

"I wouldn't talk about my emotional feelings to anyone in a text", he replied.

He testified he was just reacting to Mr Unsworth's "unprovoked" comments about him when he published the tweet.

In an attempt to persuade the jury that the comment was harmful - and Musk should compensate him for it - Unsworth, a financial consultant who divides his time between England and Thailand, described the effect it had on him. Unsworth told CNN that Musk could "stick his submarine where it hurts". He does not need to show Musk acted with "actual malice", which is much tougher to prove.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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